The following article has been prepared by the Animal Health Institute, Washington D.C. and reflects the Alpharma Animal Health position regarding the use and continued availability of antibiotics in livestock production. Working with AHI, COMISA, the global coalition of animal health industry associations, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Pork Producers Council, Alpharma is committed to supporting the continued, prudent use of these products. They are integral health management tools, necessary to meet the world's growing demand for a safe, abundant and affordable food supply.
When is antibiotic use in veterinary medicine appropriate, and what measures are taken to ensure that these products are used carefully?
Public health officials, veterinarians, government regulators, farmers and makers of animal medicines agree that proper use of antibiotics on the farm is imperative to ensure the effectiveness of antibiotics for both humans and animals. Before a product is ever approved, companies conduct thorough tests to determine the dose needed to maximize effectiveness, which minimizes chances of resistance. Label instructions for using the product safely are carefully determined and reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.
Over the past decade, all major U.S. livestock producer groups have developed comprehensive quality assurance programs to provide guidance on all aspects of the proper handling and raising of farm animals - including the safe use of antibiotics. Companies that make medicines for animals, together with veterinarians and food producers, are working with international groups to develop guidelines for the prudent use of antibiotics in animals. In the U.S. and internationally, draft principles on the judicious use of antibiotics have been developed and are currently being reviewed by veterinary groups, government agencies, producers, farmers and industry. Once approved, these general principles will serve as a template for the development of more detailed guidelines appropriate for specific species and diseases. The animal health industry is also reviewing how food producers and veterinarians receive information on the use of antibiotics in animals to ensure that products are used safely and prudently.
By following recommendations outlined in the quality assurance programs, producers may be more confident that the correct antibiotic has been selected, that it has been administered properly, and that withdrawal times have been adhered to.
Quality assurance programs include information on:
- Working with veterinarians and other health care experts to establish a herd-health management plan that focuses on preventing disease;
- Understanding veterinarian-client-patient relationships to ensure that the best care is given to each animal;
- Safe storage of animal health products;
- Understanding the difference between FDA-approved over-the-counter and prescription-only products;
- Learning the safest techniques for administering animal health products;
- Following label instructions;
- Tips for efficient record keeping to ensure no products are misused or overused;
- Performing drug residue tests to ensure that trace levels of a drug have cleared an animal's system before it is sold as food; and
- Educating all farm personnel who are involved with animal health care on proper drug use.
The quality assurance programs track closely with government efforts to identify all critical control points along the production chain for potential food hazards. Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's identification of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) throughout the food chain, all who have a stake in providing safe food - including consumers - can better control food-borne illness.